Come experience the Riojan Young and Fresh…Wines! Rioja Joven y Fresco Event Recap

Every year Lo Mejor del Vino de Rioja holds an event to allow wineries in La Rioja to present their newest released wines. This includes the 2012 release of white, rose and young red wines. What is great about this event is that it gets the younger generation out and trying the young wines of La Rioja, who normally drink “cubatas” or mixed drinks instead of wine.

This is a great event for wine lovers and new wine lovers as it allows you to try five wines and compare them.

Pedro Balda, winemaker of La Rad- Pedro Balda-Viticultor, and Julio Carreter, winemaker of the Torres Winery- Rioja- Ibericos join me today to help explain the event.

If you happen to be in La Rioja over the summer, it is worth checking out for upcoming wine events. Salud!!

Logroño, La Rioja, named Gastronomic Capital of Spain 2012

The Famous Mushrooms from Calle Laurel

Gastronomic Capital of Spain is sponsored by the Federación Española de Hosterlería (FEHR), Spanish Federation of Hospitality, and Federación Española de Periodistas y Escritores de Turismo (FEPET), Spanish Federation of Journalist and Tourism Writers. The FEHR and FEPET created this Capital in order to promote Spanish gastronomy at a national and international level, as an attractive form of tourism in Spain.

According to the Spanish Secretary General of Tourism, in Spain, there are over 59.2 million people who visited the country in 2010, five million of which came solely for gastronomic reasons. So how does it work? Each year a city is nominated as the “Capital Española de la Gastronomía (CEG), Gastronomic Capital of Spain, which lasts from the January 1 to December 31.

La Rioja was chosen due to its leadership in Spain to market its land, wine and active tourism not only nationally but internationally. It was able to take their successful model of ecotourism to gastronomic tourism.Logrono- Gastronomic Capital of Spain 2012

Logroño, the capital, is situated in the heart of La Rioja. Oenologically (in regards to wine) La Rioja is divided into three different regions, Rioja Alta, North West of Logroño; Rioja Alavesa, the Basque wine region, North of Logroño; and Rioja Baja, South East of Logroño. Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa are well known in the wine industry, whereas Rioja Baja, which also produces wine, is primarily known for excellent agricultural products that are also under a Designation of Origin – DO similar to the wine which is under a Qualified Designation of Origin—DOCa. These DOs are a regulatory classification system used to control and ensure the quality of products of these regions in wine as well as food. Combining these quality agricultural products along with quality wine and the already established culinary culture of La Rioja, optimally makes La Rioja a prime candidate for being selected as the Gastronomic Capital of Spain.

In La Rioja, there are over 510 restaurants and 2,180 bars (that also serve food-tapas) that all share the drive and desire to continue to make La Rioja a gastronomic destination now and in the future. For these reasons and more, Logrono, La Rioja was selected as Gastronomic Capital of Spain.

Speaking from personal experience, Logroño, the city in which I live, is wonderful. I have never been a place in the world that lives, eats and breathes this concept more. Every day there is an event that demonstrates this, such as tonight, for example, I am attending a tasting that is sponsored by La Rioja, a regional newspaper, called “Lo Mejor del Vino de Rioja Cata,” The best wine of La Rioja wine tasting, which is open not only to people in the industry but also the general public. This event is held every month to highlight one Riojan winery of the region and allow everyone to try their wines with the owner and winemaker. A few weeks ago, there was a Tapas Week as part of this Gastronomic capital initiative where all the bars in Logroño served their special tapa ( small bite) with wine for a special price. There are also two streets dedicated to Tapa hopping, which is the same concept as bar hopping, except you literally go bar to bar in these two streets, Calle San Juan and Calle Laurel, and devour the beautifully tasty tapas that are specific to each bar with a wonderful Riojan wine.

What more can you ask for? If it were up to me, Logroño would be named Gastronomic Capital of the World, and this coming from someone who has lived in a lot of places. Though Peruvian and Thai food would be my next choice!

Wine History 101: What is wine and how it came to be

While recently reading a book called About Wine by J.Patrick Henderson, I was interested to learn more about the history behind the wine I drink so often. I thought it might be interesting to share with you wine history in a nutshell.

According to Henderson, wine was first consumed in Persia (modern-day Iran) in 5000 to 6000 B.C.  Wikipedia states that archaeological evidence exists for other early wine production at about 6000 B.C. in Georgia, and about 4100 B.C. in Armenia.

The Persians first made their wine from dates and other fruits available in the area.  It wasn’t until 3000 B.C.  that Vitis vinifera, a species of grape native of the Black and Caspian Seas was used by the Egyptians and Phoenicians to make wine.

In 1000 B.C. the Greek empire spread wine making throughout the Mediterranean region of Europe, Italy, France, and Spain. Because wine was the center of many spiritual and religious ceremonies, the Greeks created a deity, Dionysus, in honor of wine, and no festival could be complete without wine. At this time, however, wine was made from raisins or late-harvested grapes; these methods resulted in heavy, sweet almost syrupy liquid wine.

It wasn’t until the Romans started to develop technological advances in viticulture (grape growing) and enology (study of wine making) that wine started be aged in barrels for up to a century at a time. As the Roman empire grew, so did the expansion of vineyards and wine practices into countries such as Spain and Portugal.

During the Middle Ages, it fell upon the Catholic Church to develop and maintain the secrets of viticulture and enology—a practice which, under Pope Gregory the Great, made the church quite profitable and also encouraged the expansion of wine production and vines throughout Europe. The Church closely controlled wine making, and it required all grapes to be pressed in monasteries, for which the church would require a 10% “donation” of production.  The wealth created by wine production allowed the monks to dedicate themselves to studies of viticulture and enology. As the church grew, so did the cities that formed around these monasteries. It was during the reign of Charlemagne (768-814) that medieval viticulture and enology reached its peak.

It wasn’t until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and the great European Renaissance that the Church’s authority was disputed, most notably by Martin Luther. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Church had lost most of its political and economic power, and the majority of the vineyards passed to private hands.

The nineteenth century, the golden age of wine, was not only the greatest and most advanced period for viticulture and enology, but also the most devastating period in the history of wine making.

During that century, Louis Pasteur, the famous microbiologist, had identified that the fermentation of grape juice into wine was a result of action by microorganisms.  It was also during this time that Phylloxera, a topic I had discussed earlier in this web site,destroyed the vines of Europe.

Phylloxera, a root louse, or aphid, a small sap-sucking insect that feeds on roots and leaves originally from the eastern United States, was brought over to France on a merchant ship.  In 1868, it affected all of southern France and by 1874, had reached Germany. It was during this time that many French winemakers had established vineyards in Spain, on the other side of the Pyrenees in hopes to save the vineyards.  Nevertheless, by the late 1800s, Phylloxera had spread to all wine-making regions of Europe. It wasn’t until the introduction and use of rootstock from North America that the European revival of the wine industry began once again.

During this time and into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, those with economic means took their vines and knowledge of European wine making elsewhere, planting vineyards in other places in North America, as well in South America, Australia, and South Africa.

It was also during this time that World War I halted the production of European wine making, and Prohibition in 1919-1933 created a decline in the demand for wine. However, after World War II, returning U.S. servicemen came back with a newly acquired taste for European wine, and by the 1950s, wine interest and consumption was again on the rise. In the 1960s and 1970s, the New World took steps towards naming wines after grape varieties, as compared to the traditional European naming system involving geographic denominations such as La Rioja and Bordeaux. Public taste in North America began to move from sweet, fortified wines to dry table wines, marking the beginning of the wine market we know today.